Fox News has once again modified the details of its first-of-the-season August 6 Republican presidential debate, which, due to the 2016 GOP field’s 16 currently-announced candidates, has been split into two separate contests. Initially, the news network announced that the candidates who polled in the top 10 according to an average of the 5 most recent national presidential polls taken prior to the event would be included in its prime-time debate at 9 p.m. EST at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, whereas those falling below that mark would instead face off in a 90-minute second-tier debate taking place at 1 p.m. EST on the same day. Fox News has yet to point out the specific 5 polls upon which the candidates will be judged.

[RELATED: Rigged? Fox News Debate Criteria Lacks Transparency]

According to Politico, Fox News has decided to move the second-tier debate to a more visible time slot on August 6. The junior varsity debate for candidates who fail to make the top ten, which has been shortened from 90 minutes to 60 minutes, will now take place at 5 p.m. EST at Quicken Loans Arena.

Politico’s Dylan Byers wrote, “The move to 5 p.m. will give the second-tier candidates a far greater audience than they would have had at mid-day — the channel’s 5 p.m. ratings are nearly double the daytime average — and will allow Fox News to transition directly from the forum into its pre-debate coverage.

Fox News’ decision to judge candidates on their polling numbers for inclusion in the first prime-time debate of the season has been criticized by a wide range of politicos, including John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, and Rachel Maddow. Political scientist and University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry Sabato wrote in Politico, “These rules will senselessly reward gimmicky candidates like reality-TV star Donald Trump and punish serious, viable ones like Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

According to analysis of July 20 poll averages by The Washington Post, if the Fox News GOP debates were taking place today, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry would qualify for the first-tier debate and Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki would face off in the second-tier contest.

Fox News’ prime-time debate will be moderated by Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Megyn Kelly. The network’s second-tier debate will be hosted by Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum.

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